Eli Wallach, who was one of his generation’s most prominent and prolific character actors in film, onstage and on television for more than 60 years, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 98.
His death was confirmed by his daughter Katherine.
Despite his many years of film work, some of it critically acclaimed, Mr. Wallach was never nominated for an Academy Award. But in November 2010, less than a month before his 95th birthday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded him an honorary Oscar, saluting him as “the quintessential chameleon, effortlessly inhabiting a wide range of characters, while putting his inimitable stamp on every role.”
The first movie in which Mr. Wallach acted was also written by Williams: “Baby Doll” (1956), the playwright’s screen adaptation of his “27 Wagons Full of Cotton.” Mr. Wallach played Silva Vacarro, a Sicilian émigré and the owner of a cotton gin that he believes has been torched. Karl Malden and Carroll Baker also starred.
Eli Wallach was born on Dec. 7, 1915, the son of Abraham Wallach and the former Bertha Schorr. He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn and attended the University of Texas at Austin (“because the tuition was $30 a year,” he once said), where he also learned to ride horses — a skill he would put to good use in Westerns.
Eli Wallach is best known for his role as Tuco in Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.